After a really cold week, I headed over to the TECO (Tampa Electric Co) plant to see the manatees that hang out there in the winter. The warm water coming off the electric plant in the lagoon keeps the manatees warm during the coldest weeks. Years ago, the plant built a manatee viewing center with a big deck that wraps around part of the lagoon. All of those dots in the water are manatees. There were hundreds of them the morning I was there in late January.
The plant says that the smoke coming out of the stack is actually clean steam. It doesn’t feel smoky when you are there and the sky was clear blue.
Part of the deck overlooking the lagoon. This was still early in the day before the big crowds get here. I got here well before they opened at 10am and waiting in line to park and was out before lunch. They can get crazy crowded and parking is a challenge when the manatees are here in large numbers. The news channels report on them when there’s been a prolonged cold spell so everyone heads over including me.
Some of the birds around the plant. White pelicans were flying high, a young night heron flew by the deck and a vulture was sitting on a platform built for an osprey nest.
Down at the very end of the lagoon, it’s roped off so boaters or kayakers cannot follow the manatees into the area. There is no swimming with the manatees here.
There’s usually some stingrays splashing around.
I took a ton of manatee pictures so more to come on those.
It’s not often you get to see white pelicans up close. They usually only spend the winter in central Florida and even then they are usually across a lake. There are a few that live at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park year round, having ended up there with some form of injury.
The pelicans there are all missing a wing or partial wing from injuries, usually that involves fishing line being tangled up around their wings. They nest at the park and their offspring grow up there and then fly off.
The flamingos were spending the morning preening, eating or napping.
There were two white pelicans and one brown pelican floating in Crescent Lake near downtown St. Pete recently. The white ones were feeding close to the edge of the lake.
You can always find wood storks here.
Other usual critters include wintering ring billed ducks, lots of green herons, a cute mallard with a feather hat and plenty of turtles. One thing I’ve never seen here is alligators. I’m sure they are there under the water. I’ve only ever been early in the morning so they may be on the bank sunning themselves late in the afternoon.
This ring billed gull would have preferred a handout.
I had heard he was there for a over a week before I made it down to Fort Desoto. I headed down to the park early one Saturday morning in late October thinking it would be a needle in the haystack story. As I drove into the park I saw several people with binoculars in a field near the boat ramp. After walking through ankle deep ant infested water (the field was flooded due to recent rains) I found the Vermilion Flycatcher. He was out in the open buzzing from tree to tree so it was pretty easy to spot that flash of red unless you weren’t paying attention and thought it was a cardinal. It was the first time I have heard of one being in the Tampa bay area so there were a lot of people coming through that morning looking for him. He’s a beautiful bird and totally worth enduring the over 50 ant bites.
Otherwise, there were just the usual migrating birds at the park. This female rose breasted grosbeak was very accommodating.
The white pelicans are back but they were across the lagoon. You can tell how much bigger they are than our resident brown pelicans.
Osprey have taken over the park. They are everywhere.
Shorebirds near the fishing pier.
TOTO is still hanging out at the park. He’s got a band on his legs with TOTO. I’ve been taking pictures of him for over 8 years. He’s always there with his girlfriend.
The Flamingo Gardens near Ft. Lauderdale takes in a lot of permanently injured animals to live their lives out here. As I was walking around the aviary this pelican came right up to me as if to say “Come hang out with me.”. It looked like he had an injured wing.
A barred owl with a missing eye.
A few other birds in the aviary.
The white pelicans had very distinctive faces.
The pelicans were nesting and swimming around.
A pretty cattle egret posing for me.
All taken in the permanent injured aviary.
I’ve been recently posting a lot of older pictures on Instagram. If you are over there you can find me at @dinaj1.
It’s rare to see a white pelican in Florida outside of the winter months. Even in the winter you have to hunt for them in central Florida. There’s usually a few that hang out at Lake Morton in Lakeland. These guys were still here in mid-March. They usually leave to head north for the summer in late April. Some of the older ones had already developed that bump on their beaks which they only get during breeding season.
A young one was posing.
Once in a while, a few would take off flying, circle the lake and land back on the lake. I’m going to miss them when they leave but hopefully they’ll be back in fall.
Sailboats far across the bay. The above was taken with my 300mm lens. The below was taken with my phone so you can see how far away they were.
What a perfect winter morning in early February. It was sunny and 72 degrees. I stopped by the Safety Harbor fishing pier before heading home after my walk and the park and pier were packed with people hanging out. There was a kiteboarder skimming across the bay in front of the fishing pier and someone flying a kite next to the pier. People were out walking their dogs and kids were playing in the field along the water. Sailboats were cruising by. This was our early spring. Soon it will be too hot and no one will be here but the skeeters and the pigeons
Pigeons in the park. They don’t get a lot of respect but they are really pretty when the sun hits those iridescent feathers.
A pelican flying into the mangroves next to another one that was napping.
White pelicans flying high up over the fishing pier.
A juvenile blue heron looking for food in the muck at low tide.